Emma Lazarus, Poet and Essayist

The life accomplishments of the writer best known for the poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty

  • Grades: 6–8, 9–12

The American poet and essayist Emma Lazarus, b. New York City, July 22, 1849, d. Nov. 19, 1887, is particularly remembered as the author of the inscription on the Statue of Liberty. The sonnet, "The New Colossus" (1883), is best known for the closing lines:


Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost, to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!


Among her other works are Admetis and Other Poems (1871), Songs of a Semite (1882), and The Dance of Death, a historical drama about medieval Hebrew life. An ardent champion of the Jews victimized in the Russian pogroms of the 1880s, Lazarus also translated Spanish, Hebrew, and German poetry.


Bibliography: Lefer, Diane, Emma Lazarus (1988).

By John Robinson

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  • Subjects:
    Literature, Literature Appreciation, Immigration

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